The Age of Intelligent Machines (1990)
Translating telephones allow people to speak to each other in different languages.
Machines designed to transcribe speech into computer text allow deaf people to understand spoken words.
Exoskeletal, robotic leg prostheses allow the paraplegic to walk.
Telephone calls are routinely screened by intelligent answering machines that ask questions to determine the call's nature and priority.
"Cybernetic chauffeurs" can drive cars for humans and can be retrofitted into existing cars. They work by communicating with other vehicles and with sensors embedded along the roads.
Early 21st century
The classroom is dominated by computers. Intelligent courseware that can tailor itself to each student by recognizing their strengths and weaknesses.
Media technology allows students to manipulate and interact with virtual depictions of the systems and personalities they are studying.
A small number of highly skilled people dominates the entire production sector. Tailoring of products for individuals is common.
Drugs are designed and tested in simulations that mimic the human body.
Blind people navigate and read text using machines that can visually recognize features of their environment.
PCs are capable of answering queries by accessing information wirelessly via the I
Phone calls entail three-dimensional holographic images of both people.
By 2020, there will be a new World government.
A computer passes the Turing Test, becoming the first true Artificial Intelligence
A $1,000 personal computer has as much raw power as the human brain.
The summed computational powers of all computers is comparable to the total brainpower of the human race.
Computers are embedded everywhere in the environment (inside of furniture, jewelry, walls, clothing, etc.).
People experience 3-D virtual reality through glasses and contact lenses that beam images directly to their retinas (retinal display). Coupled with an auditory source (headphones), users can remotely communicate with other people and access the Internet.
These special glasses and contact lenses can deliver "augmented reality" and "virtual reality" in three different ways.
First, they can project "heads-up-displays" (HUDs) across the user's field of vision, superimposing images that stay in place in the environment regardless of the user's perspective or orientation.
Second, virtual objects or people could be rendered in fixed locations by the glasses, so when the user's eyes look elsewhere, the objects appear to stay in their places.
Third, the devices could block out the "real" world entirely and fully immerse the user in a virtual reality environment.
People communicate with their computers via two-way speech and gestures instead of with keyboards. Furthermore, most of this interaction occurs through computerized assistants with different personalities that the user can select or customize. Dealing with computers thus becomes more and more like dealing with a human being.
Most business transactions or information inquiries involve dealing with a simulated person.
Most people own more than one P.C., though the concept of what a "computer" is has changed considerably: Computers are no longer limited in design to laptops or CPUs contained in a large box connected to a monitor. Instead, devices with computer capabilities come in all sorts of unexpected shapes and sizes.
Cables connecting computers and peripherals have almost completely disappeared.
Rotating computer hard drives are no longer used.
Three-dimensional nanotube lattices are the dominant computing substrate.
Massively parallel neural nets and genetic algorithms are in wide use.
Destructive scans of the brain and noninvasive brain scans have allowed scientists to understand the brain much better. The algorithms that allow the relatively small genetic code of the brain to construct a much more complex organ are being transferred into computer neural nets.
Pinhead-sized cameras are everywhere.
Nanotechnology is more capable and is in use for specialized applications, yet it has not yet made it into the mainstream. "Nanoengineered machines" begin to be used in manufacturing.
Thin, lightweight, handheld displays with very high resolutions are the preferred means for viewing documents. The aforementioned computer eyeglasses and contact lenses are also used for this same purpose, and all download the information by
Computers have made paper books and documents almost completely obsolete.
Most learning is accomplished through intelligent, adaptive courseware presented by computer-simulated teachers. In the learning process, human adults fill the counselor and mentor roles instead of being academic instructors. These assistants are often not physically present, and help students remotely.
Students still learn together and socialize, though this is often done remotely via computers.
All students have access to computers.
Most human workers spend the majority of their time acquiring new skills and knowledge.
Blind people wear special glasses that interpret the real world for them through speech. Sighted people also use these glasses to amplify their own abilities.
Retinal and neural implants also exist, but are in limited use because they are less useful.
Deaf people use special glasses that convert speech into text or signs, and music into images or tactile sensations. Cochlear and other implants are also widely used.
People with spinal cord injuries can walk and climb steps using computer-controlled nerve stimulation and exoskeletal robotic walkers.
Computers are also found inside of some humans in the form of cybernetic implants. These are most commonly used by disabled people to regain normal physical faculties (i.e. - Retinal implants allow the blind to see and spinal implants coupled with mechanical legs allow the paralyzed to walk).
Language translating machines are of much higher quality, and are routinely used in conversations.
Effective language technologies (natural language processing, speech recognition, speech synthesis) exist
Access to the Internet is completely wireless and provided by wearable or implanted computers.
People are able to wirelessly access the Internet at all times from almost anywhere
Devices that deliver sensations to the skin surface of their users (i.e.--tight body suits and gloves) are also sometimes used in virtual reality to complete the experience. "Virtual sex"--in which two people are able to have sex with each other through virtual reality, or in which a human can have sex with a "simulated" partner that only exists on a computer—becomes a reality.
Just as visual- and auditory virtual reality have come of age, haptic technology has fully matured and is completely convincing, yet requires the user to enter a V.R. booth. It is commonly used for computer sex and remote medical examinations. It is the preferred sexual medium since it is safe and enhances the experience.
Worldwide economic growth has continued. There has not been a global economic collapse.
The vast majority of business interactions occur between humans and simulated retailers, or between a human's virtual personal assistant and a simulated retailer.
Household robots are ubiquitous and reliable.
Computers do most of the vehicle driving—-humans are in fact prohibited from driving on highways unassisted. Furthermore, when humans do take over the wheel, the onboard computer system constantly monitors their actions and takes control whenever the human drives recklessly. As a result, there are very few transportation accidents.
Most roads now have automated driving systems—networks of monitoring and communication devices that allow computer-controlled automobiles to safely navigate.
Prototype personal flying vehicles using microflaps exist. They are also primarily computer-controlled.
Humans are beginning to have deep relationships with automated personalities, which hold some advantages over human partners. The depth of some computer personalities convinces some people that they should be accorded more rights.
While a growing number of humans believe that their computers and the simulated personalities they interact with are intelligent to the point of human-level consciousness, experts dismiss the possibility that any could pass the Turing Test.
Human-robot relationships begin as simulated personalities become more convincing.
Interaction with virtual personalities becomes a primary interface
Public places and workplaces are ubiquitously monitored to prevent violence and all actions are recorded permanently. Personal privacy is a major political issue, and some people protect themselves with unbreakable computer codes.
The basic needs of the underclass are met. (Not specified if this pertains only to the developed world or to all countries)
Virtual artists—creative computers capable of making their own art and music—emerge in all fields of the arts.
A $1,000 personal computer is 1,000 times more powerful than the human brain.
The vast majority of computation is done by computers and not by human brains.
Further progress has been made in understanding the secrets of the human brain. Hundreds of distinct sub-regions with specialized functions have been identified. Some of the algorithms that code for development of these regions have been deciphered and incorporated into neural net computers.
Massively parallel neural nets, which are constructed through reverse-engineering the human brain, are in common use.
The eyeglasses and headphones that used to deliver virtual reality are now obsolete thanks to computer implants that go into the eyes and ears. The implants are either permanent or removable. They allow direct interface with computers, communications and Internet-based applications. The implants are also capable of recording what the user sees and hears.
Computer implants designed for direct connection to the brain are also available. They are capable of augmenting natural senses and of enhancing higher brain functions like memory, learning speed and overall intelligence.
Computers are now capable of learning and creating new knowledge entirely on their own and with no human help. By scanning the enormous content of the Internet, some computers "know" literally every single piece of public information (every scientific discovery, every book and movie, every public statement, etc.) generated by human beings.
Direct brain implants allow users to enter full-immersion virtual reality—with complete sensory stimulation—without any external equipment. People can have their minds in a totally different place at any moment. This technology is in widespread use.
Most communication occurs between humans and machines as opposed to human-to-human.
The manufacturing, agricultural and transportation sectors of the economy are almost entirely automated and employ very few humans. Across the world, poverty, war and disease are almost nonexistent thanks to technology alleviating want.
The rise of Artificial Intelligence creates a real "robot rights" movement, and there is open, public debate over what sorts of civil rights and legal protections machines should have. The existence of humans with heavy levels of cybernetic augmentation and of larger numbers of other people with less extreme cybernetic implants lead to further arguments over what constitutes a "human being."
Although computers routinely pass the Turing Test, controversy still persists over whether machines are as intelligent as humans in all areas.
Artificial Intelligences claim to be conscious and openly petition for recognition of the fact. Most people admit and accept this new truth.
Reverse engineering of the human brain completed
Non-biological intelligence combines the subtlety and pattern recognition strength of human intelligence, with the speed, memory, and knowledge sharing of machine intelligence
Non-biological intelligence will continue to grow exponentially whereas biological intelligence is effectively fixed
Food is commonly "assembled" by nanomachines. This food is externally indistinguishable from "natural" food, but it can be made more wholesome since production can be controlled at the molecular level. This technology decouples food production from climate conditions and the availability of natural resources.
The distinction between virtual reality and "real" reality becomes confounded as foglets come into common use, allowing immediate assembly or disassembly of all sorts of physical objects.
Picoengineering (technology on the scale of trillionths of a meter) becomes practical.
The human brain has been completely reverse engineered and all aspects of its functioning are understood.
Natural human thinking possesses no advantages over computer minds.
Machines have attained equal legal status with humans.
Humans and machines merge together in the physical and mental realms. Cybernetic brain implants enable humans to fuse their minds with AI's.
In consequence, clear distinctions between humans and machines no longer exist.
Most conscious beings lack a permanent physical form.
The vast majority of the Earth's sentient beings are AI's that exist entirely as thinking computer programs capable of instantly moving from one computer to another across the Internet (or whatever equivalent exists in 2099). These computer-based beings are capable of manifesting themselves at will in the physical world by creating or taking over robotic bodies, with individual AI's also being capable of controlling multiple bodies at once.
Individual beings merge and separate constantly, making it impossible to determine how many “people” there are on Earth.
This new plasticity of consciousness and ability for beings to join minds seriously alters the nature of self-identity.
The majority of interpersonal interactions occur in virtual environments. Actually having two people physically meet in the real world to have a conversation or transact business without any technological interference is very rare.
Organic human beings are a small minority of the intelligent life forms on Earth. Even among the remaining Homo sapiens, the use of computerized implants that heavily augment normal abilities is ubiquitous and accepted as normal. The small fraction of humans who opt to remain "natural" and unmodified effectively exist on a different plane of consciousness from everyone else, and thus find it impossible to fully interact with AI's and highly modified humans.
"Natural" humans are protected from extermination. In spite of their shortcomings and frailties, humans are respected by AI's for giving rise to the machines.
Since knowledge and skills can be instantly downloaded and comprehended by most intelligent beings, the process of learning is compressed into an instantaneous affair instead of the years-long struggle normal humans experience. Free from this time-consuming burden, AI's now focus their energies on making new discoveries and contributions.
AI's are capable of dividing their attention and energies in countless directions, allowing one being to manage a multitude of endeavors simultaneously.
Femtoengineering (engineering on the scale of one thousandth of a trillionth of a meter) might be possible.
AI's communicate via a shared electronic language.
Artwork and music created by machines encompasses areas of the light spectrum and frequencies of sounds that normal humans cannot perceive.
Money has deflated in value.
Some humans at least as old as the Baby Boomers are still alive and well.
Computer viruses are a major threat since most intelligent beings are software-based.
AI's frequently make "backup copies" of themselves, guaranteeing a sort of immortality should the original AI be killed.
The concept of "life expectancy" has become irrelevant to humans and machines thanks to medical immortality and advanced computers.
The pace of technological change continues to accelerate as the 22nd century nears.
Thousands of years from now
"Intelligent beings consider the fate of the Universe." Presumably, this means that the AI's created by humans will have the ability to control the entire Universe, perhaps keeping it from dying.
The Singularity is Near (2005)
Supercomputers will have the same raw computing power as human brains, though the software to emulate human thinking on those computers does not yet exist.
Computers will start to disappear as distinct physical objects, meaning many will have nontraditional shapes or will be embedded in clothing and everyday objects.
Full-immersion audio-visual virtual reality will exist.
Computers become smaller and increasingly integrated into everyday life.
More and more computer devices will be used as miniature web servers, and more will have their resources pooled for computation.
High-quality broadband Internet access will become available almost everywhere.
Glasses that beam images onto the users' retinas to produce virtual reality will be developed. They will also come with speakers or headphone attachments that will complete the experience with sounds.
The VR glasses will also have built-in computers featuring "virtual assistant" programs that can help the user with various daily tasks.
Virtual assistants would be capable of multiple functions. One useful function would be real-time language translation in which words spoken in a foreign language would be translated into text that would appear as subtitles to a user wearing the glasses.
Cell phones will be built into clothing and will be able to project sounds directly into the ears of their users.
Advertisements will utilize a new technology whereby two ultrasonic beams can be targeted to intersect at a specific point, delivering a localized sound message that only a single person can hear. This was depicted in the movie Minority Report.
Automatic house cleaning robots will have become common.
1013 bits of computer memory—roughly the equivalent of the memory space in a single human brain—will cost $1000.
One personal computer will have the same processing power as a human brain.
Computers less than 100 nm in size will be possible.
As one of their first practical applications, nanomachines are used for medical purposes.
Highly advanced medical nanobots will perform detailed brainscans on live patients.
Accurate computer simulations of the entire human brain will exist due to these hyperaccurate brainscans, and the workings of the brain will be understood.
Nanobots capable of entering the bloodstream to "feed" cells and extract waste will exist (though not necessarily be in wide use) by the end of this decade. They will make the normal mode of human food consumption obsolete.
By the late 2020s, nanotech-based manufacturing will be in widespread use, radically altering the economy as all sorts of products can suddenly be produced for a fraction of their traditional-manufacture costs. The true cost of any product is now the amount it takes to download the design schematics.
By the later part of this decade, virtual reality will be so high-quality that it will be indistinguishable from real reality.
The threat posed by genetically engineered pathogens permanently dissipates by the end of this decade as medical nanobots—infinitely more durable, intelligent and capable than any microorganism—become sufficiently advanced.
A computer passes the Turing test by the last year of the decade (2029), meaning that it is a Strong AI and can think like a human (though the first A.I. is likely to be the equivalent of a very stupid human). This first A.I. is built around a computer simulation of a human brain, which was made possible by previous, nanotech-guided brain scanning.
The most likely year for the debut of advanced nanotechnology.
Some military UAV's and land vehicles will be 100% computer-controlled.
Mind uploading becomes possible.
Nanomachines could be directly inserted into the brain and could interact with brain cells to totally control incoming and outgoing signals. As a result, truly full-immersion virtual reality could be generated without the need for any external equipment. Afferent nerve pathways could be blocked, totally canceling out the "real" world and leaving the user with only the desired virtual experience.
Brain nanobots could also elicit emotional responses from users.
Using brain nanobots, recorded or real-time brain transmissions of a person's daily life known as "experience beamers" will be available for other people to remotely experience. This is very similar to how the characters in Being John Malkovich were able to enter the mind of Malkovich and see the world through his eyes.
Recreational uses aside, nanomachines in peoples' brains will allow them to greatly expand their cognitive, memory and sensory capabilities, to directly interface with computers, and to "telepathically" communicate with other, similarly augmented humans via wireless networks.
The same nanotechnology should also allow people to alter the neural connections within their brains, changing the underlying basis for the person's intelligence, memories and personality.
Human body 2.0 (as Kurzweil calls it) is incrementally accumulated into this decade. It consists of a nanotechnological system of nourishment and circulation—obsolescing many internal organs—and an improved skeleton.
Human body 3.0 is gradually implemented during this decade. It lacks a fixed, corporeal form and can alter its shape and external appearance at will via foglet-like nanotechnology (similar to the T-1000 from Terminator 2).
People spend most of their time in full-immersion virtual reality (Kurzweil has cited The Matrix as a good example of what the advanced virtual worlds will be like, without the dystopian twist).
Foglets are in use.
$1000 buys a computer a billion times more intelligent than every human combined. This means that average and even low-end computers are vastly smarter than even highly intelligent, unenhanced humans.
The technological singularity occurs as artificial intelligences surpass human beings as the smartest and most capable life forms on the Earth. Technological development is taken over by the machines, who can think, act and communicate so quickly that normal humans cannot even comprehend what is going on. The machines enter into a "runaway reaction" of self-improvement cycles, with each new generation of A.I.s appearing faster and faster. From this point onwards, technological advancement is explosive, under the control of the machines, and thus cannot be accurately predicted (hence the term "Singularity").
The Singularity is an extremely disruptive, world-altering event that forever changes the course of human history. The extermination of humanity by violent machines is unlikely (though not impossible) because sharp distinctions between man and machine will no longer exist thanks to the existence of cybernetically enhanced humans and uploaded humans.
"Waking up" the Universe
The physical bottom limit to how small computer transistors (or other equivalent, albeit more effective components, such as memristors integrated into Crossbar latches) can be shrunk is reached. From this moment onwards, computers can only be made more powerful if they are made larger in size.
Because of this, A.I.s convert more and more of the Earth's matter into engineered, computational substrate capable of supporting more A.I.s. until the whole Earth is one, gigantic computer, except for a few nature reserves set aside on the planetary surface for those humans who decided to remain in their natural state.
At this point, the only possible way to increase the intelligence of the machines any farther is to begin converting all of the matter in the universe into similar massive computers. A.I.s radiate outward from Earth, first into the Solar System and then out into interstellar space in all directions, utilizing starships that are Von Neumann probes with nanobot crews, breaking down whole planets, moons and meteoroids and reassembling them into computers. This, in effect, "wakes up" the universe as all the inanimate "dumb" matter (rocks, dust, gases, etc.) is converted into structured matter capable of supporting life (albeit synthetic life).
Kurzweil predicts that machines might have the ability to make planet-sized computers by 2099, which underscores how enormously technology will advance after the Singularity.
The process of "waking up" the universe could be complete as early as 2199, or might take billions of years depending on whether or not machines could figure out a way to circumvent the speed of light for the purposes of interstellar travel.
With the entire universe made into a giant, highly efficient supercomputer, AI and human hybrids (so integrated that, in truth it is a new category of "life") would have both supreme intelligence and physical control over the universe. Kurzweil suggests that this would open up all sorts of new possibilities, including abrogation of the laws of Physics, interdimensional travel, and a possible infinite extension of existence (true immortality).
Some indeterminate points within a few decades from now
Space technology becomes advanced enough to provide the Earth permanent protection from the threat of asteroid impacts.
The antitechnology Luddite movement will grow increasingly vocal and possibly resort to violence as these people become enraged over the emergence of new technologies that threaten traditional attitudes regarding the nature of human life (radical life extension, genetic engineering, cybernetics) and the supremacy of mankind (artificial intelligence). Though the Luddites might, at best, succeed in delaying the Singularity, the march of technology is irresistible and they will inevitably fail in keeping the world frozen at a fixed level of development.
The emergence of distributed energy grids and full-immersion virtual reality will, when combined with high bandwidth Internet, enable the ultimate in telecommuting. This, in turn, will make cities obsolete since workers will no longer need to be located near their workplaces. The decentralization of the population will make societies less vulnerable to terrorist and military attacks.